Alonzo Ackerly’s first college degree wasn’t nursing, but it was close. The native of Roscoe, New York, graduated from the State University of New York Cortland in 2008 with a degree in health science, an area of longtime interest. Thereafter, he took a job in phlebotomy but knew it wasn’t his long-term career.
“I enjoyed health care, but nursing wasn’t on my radar at that age,” says Alonzo, adding that his bachelor’s degree didn’t prepare him well to advance in the healthcare field. The upside of working in the hospital, however, was that Alonzo gained exposure to all kinds of different jobs. “I wanted to do more and open up more opportunities for myself, and I learned that nursing was really flexible and would allow me to do the things I love to do. I also could tell that it is a very in-demand career.”
Becoming a Registered Nurse
After eight years in phlebotomy, Alonzo decided it was time to make a change—and that a nursing degree was the best way to do so. He researched RN programs and chose Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, earning his associate degree in 2015. That same year, Alonzo started his nursing career in the medical-surgical unit at Crouse Hospital before moving into a role as RN in the intravenous therapy department at St. Joseph’s Hospital. A year and a half later, Alonzo became an RN coordinator for phlebotomy/IV therapy.
Meeting Magnet requirements
With St. Joseph’s being a Magnet hospital, Alonzo was keenly aware of the requirement for a certain percentage of nurses to earn bachelor’s degrees within the next few years. A fellow nursing school graduate shared her plans to take classes at American Sentinel University and Alonzo liked everything he learned about the school. He started the BSN in 2018. “Already, my eyes have been opened,” he says. “The BSN has delved into the rationale behind fiscal decisions and major initiatives. I’m learning so much.”
A family affair
Shortly after becoming an American Sentinel BSN student, Alonzo’s wife, Sarah—also a nurse at St. Joseph’s—decided she too would return to school. Sarah started the MSN Nursing Education program in 2018. The couple encourages one another to work hard toward achieving their goals.
“We are very supportive of each other,” Alonzo says. “When Sarah saw how American Sentinel worked for me, she liked the idea of going back to school too. American Sentinel is very accommodating. We can both work full time in our jobs and further our educations from our kitchen table in our free time.”
Working toward upper management
With just two classes to go to the finish line, Alonzo is excited about the opportunities that his education could help make possible.
“I love where I am at St. Joseph’s and feel like I really get to make a difference where I am,” he says. “I’ll feel it out more when I finish the BSN, but I’m thinking about getting either an MBA or a Master of Healthcare Administration next—or maybe both.” No matter what, Alonzo says, education is worth pursuing. “It is for sure worth it. And when there’s flexibility to do it online the way I’m doing it, there’s really no reason not to better yourself.”
Inspired by Alonzo’s story? A BSN is ideal for nurses who want to expand their knowledge base, become more marketable and enjoy greater career stability and mobility. Specialized knowledge forms the foundation of nursing and when you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.
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